jean-mcneil

THE WRITER
JEAN MCNEIL

Interpreter of Climate Change

Professor of Creative Writing, School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing
Research Group Member, Creative Writing Research Group

 

Jean has written extensively about the environment and climate change. She has also been writer in residence in the Falkland Islands, Antarctica, Svalbard and Greenland.

An award-winning literary writer, Jean leads the ClimateUEA research pillar - ‘Developing resilience through climate narrative’. She has worked with scientific organisations around the world, seeing first-hand the impact climate change has on polar regions, the tropics and the world’s oceans.

“To paraphrase a comment by Nobel Prize-winning author and UEA alumnus Kazuo Ishiguro - as writers we cannot necessarily change the world, but we can communicate how we feel about it, and bear witness.”

My Story

“My year-long fellowship in the Antarctic with the British Antarctic Survey inspired me to be a life-long advocate for the continent, the polar regions at large, and to work to combat climate change. Climate change is a reality so huge and ineffable that we need narratives to fully understand it.

My 14 published books cover a variety of genres, including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essays, travel and four books about Antarctica and the Arctic. I’ve also made short films and radio programmes about climate change and the effect it is having on the polar regions.

 

Key Projects

  • Trying to Stay Light – a short film about the Arctic shot in Norway with filmmaker Philip Lee Harvey that highlights the need to protect fragile polar landscapes from the extremes of climate change.
  • Mechanics Institute Review: Climate Change Issue - focusing on a small community in coastal Kenya, my essay, ‘The Kusi’ looks at the effects of climate change in the tropics, which is home to 40% of the world’s population.
  • Ice Diaries: An Antarctic Memoir – a wide-ranging account of a year spent as the British Antarctic Survey’s writer in residence, a cultural history of ice, and an insider’s account of Antarctic ice.

 

Thinking Without Borders

“Along with setting us the challenge of countering our own negative effects as a species, climate change also gives us the opportunity to pose and answer the question - What do we want from the world, and for the world?”

The philosopher Timothy Morton has said that it shows us how, until now, humans have been misreading the nature of the world, seeing it as a stage, a backdrop for our endeavours. ‘It is not just for us,’ he says. ‘It is a biosphere.’

Interdisciplinary work is crucial for understanding how we can begin to see the planet as it really is. No one area of knowledge can approach the paradigm shift necessary to move forward in a habitable world.”

 

Discover More

UEA Profile

Key publications

Personal Website

Mortal Glamour – Antarctica, climate change and the pandemic

More than a sign. A film about Walter Benjamin and landscape made in collaboration with Diego Ferrari and Bernardo Arce.

Exhibition film - Day for night. Landscapes of Walter Benjamin in collaboration with artist Diego Ferrari.

Day for Night. A new novel set to be published spring 2021 by ECW Press.

 

Book Reviews

New York Times

New York Times

Macleans

The Star